In Paul’s day, the Jews believed Gentiles were the only people who needed salvation. The “therefore” at the head of this chapter introduces the emphasis that everyone needs salvation.
Since they were God’s chosen people, Jews believed they would not be judged by God. However, their knowledge and heritage made them even more responsible to God. Jews were guilty of the very same offenses they found in the Gentiles.
“Thou art inexcusable,” Paul said, because he knew all people living without Christ Jesus are under condemnation. Consider first the matter of our judging other people because when we judge, there is the possibility we will get it wrong. We are, after all, only human and so is the person we are judging. We know nothing of his thoughts and motives, and we will probably judge him for the very things that are wrong in ourselves.
There is a Judge who hands out perfect justice. “We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things,” Paul wrote. God is perfectly just in dealing with mankind. His judgment is “according to truth,” or judgment that will need no court of appeals. No person will escape divine judgment. What we learn from this is that we should not be so concerned with the judgment of other people. Rather, we must judge ourselves as people who are accountable to the Creator.
Perhaps the Jews thought they were not such sinful people since God was not punishing them. This is a dangerous attitude that leads to indifference toward God. Paul reminded them of “the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering.” It was God’s goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not their innocence, that spared them from God’s wrath. They prospered because of the riches of His goodness. Paul asked if they despised these things because it sure seemed as if they did by the way they lived.
They experienced the riches of God without realizing “that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” If they had given this some thought, their lives would have changed so they no longer despised God’s riches.
The Jews were hard-hearted toward God, and in that hardness they built up against themselves the wrath of God. There will be a “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” and in that day they will know God is in control of their lives for all eternity. They did not surrender to Him in this life, but they will surely surrender to Him in the next life. They will search their hearts as they never searched them before, and they will do so with eternal regret.
God will “render to every man according to his deeds,” said Paul. There are people who “by patient continuance” have sought to glorify and honor God. They have lived trusting God that they will live eternally with Him.
There are some, Paul said, who have been contentious toward God. They cared nothing for the truth and shaped their lives according to the world. These people will experience tribulation and anguish, or the second death. They will be eternally tormented in hell.
“There is no respect of persons with God,” Paul said. The Jew who has done evil will know the same tribulation and anguish given to the Gentile who has done evil in the sight of God.
How does this Scripture affect your life? Are you walking in the world or in the Spirit? I pray you can say you are thankful that the goodness of God led you to repentance and salvation.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. He can be reached at [email protected]